Trees – some considerations for landowners
Whilst trees certainly have a great deal of amenity value (in 2008 a Victoria Plane in London was valued at £750,000), to say nothing of the increasing value of timber, trees can also cause a great deal of trouble legally speaking. They are, after all, extremely large, heavy objects with a life of their own and, as the recent Storms, Arwen and Malik have reminded us, a propensity to fall over.
As the landowner, you owe a duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act to those on your property in any event, but if you own trees bordering a highway or public right of way, you also owe a duty to the public using that highway or right of way, to ensure that the tree does not present a danger. The greater the degree of public access, the more care must be taken. It is for precisely this reason, that landowners such as the National Trust are increasingly tending to close their properties to visitors in high winds.
If you own or are considering buying a property with trees adjacent to public access, you can discharge that duty of care (and therefore protect yourself against claims) by taking all reasonable management measures to avoid foreseeable injury or harm being caused by those trees. This translates as; landowners must act in a sensible and practical way, according to the size of their properties, the nature and location of the tree/s (and the depth of their pockets). What is practical for a landed estate with an in-house maintenance team, will not be appropriate for, or expected of a homeowner, with few garden trees bordering a footpath.
If, however, you take all reasonable steps to manage your trees, top and lop when necessary and undertake reasonable investigations and/or get them surveyed if you suspect them of being diseased or otherwise unsound, then you should have a good defence to any claim.
For any advice on the matter, please contact Elizabeth Earle on 0191 211 7851 or by emailing [email protected]